Friday, August 4

Our Friends from the north

Did you ever wonder what it is like living in a war zone ? I received an email from a friend describing it.

I'll post and run in case "PJ" thinks I am going to post an anti Israel piece.

Don't just read this post, read the link also.

Living in northern Israel is completely intolerable. Can anyone imagine what it's like having 144 katyusha rockets a day targeted at civilian centers? The hospital in Nahariya was targeted (how do you target a hospital????). It took a direct hit, but the patients had been moved into the makeshift underground clinic. The same hospital had a near miss the next day.

Imagine Al Qaida setting up camp near Tijuana, Mexico, firing katyusha rockets at La Jolla and, at the same time, crossing the border and kidnapping 2 U.S. soldiers. So the United States would send planes to bomb the areas from which the rockets were fired. Then Al Qaida would unleash a barrage of katyushas - over a hundred a day - on Los Angeles, San Diego and Palm Springs. How would America respond?

Almost one third of our population is currently paralyzed. There are almost a million citizens who have spent the past 3 weeks in bomb shelters. Some of these shelters are accommodating up to 30 people with a single toilet and in appalling conditions. Toddlers and young children can't understand why they can't go outside. The government is too involved in funding the war in Lebanon, so volunteers and some non profit organizations have taken it upon themselves to send food to these people in shelters.

Israel's celebrities (and Knesset members) are going around the shelters to visit with and to entertain people. Those who could leave to go south have left. I just read in today's Ha'aretz newspaper that the Reform Movement took many of the disabled people from up north and paid for them to stay down south in Mitzpe Ramon. Jerusalem is full of northerners. We decided to open our home to a needy family. We were supposed to get a family from Nahariya - a blind father, a mother and 2 children. The day before they were due to come to us, there were 56 katyushas fired (all in one day) on Nahariya. While running down the stairs to their private shelter, the father fell and broke his leg, so he was hospitalized and now needs a place without steps.

This past Sunday we began hosting our "new northern family". They will be with us for the duration of the war. The family is: Elinor, the mother, Lotam (aged 3) and Lidar (aged 1 1/2). Elinor's husband, Shlomi Mansura, was killed in the Haifa train station when a katyusha rocket landed on it 2 weeks ago. Elinor's mother, Yaffa Alfon, is also staying with us.

The day the rockets started, the Mansuras quickly left their home in Nahariya and went to Jerusalem for the day and night. But Shlomi's work required that he return so the family came back to live with Elinor's parents in their home in Kiryat Ata. The next day the rocket fell and Shlomi was killed. The shiva was in Shlomi's mother's home in Kiryat Yam (also in the Haifa area).

The story is even more tragic. Shlomi's father had died of cancer just about one year ago and he was still saying kaddish. The shiva finished for Shlomi the day of the yartzeit for his father. When the family got up from shiva and went to the cemetery to say kaddish for Shlomi's father, there was a rocket that hit that very home where they were sitting shiva and, though it didn't explode, it ruined the home. So, the fact that the family actually went to the cemetery to say kaddish probably saved their lives.

After the shiva, Elinor and her kids, together with her parents, came to Jerusalem and were put up at Ramat Rachel guest house by the government for a few days. We had notified our Reform Movement that we wanted to host a family from the north. The Movement opened a "hotline" and had several applicants. The Mansura family heard about the opportunity and requested a place and we are happy to have them. We have an area in our home which is very private where they can feel safe away from the katyushas in Nahariya.

Our friends (and total strangers) have helped with a high chair, portacrib, dishes, pots, toys, clothes, everything. Some people even gave us money to give them because they wanted to do something to help - the family will need food, taxi money and all the regular facets of life.

The girls are having a hard time and are crying for their father. A social worker was here yesterday to help them explain to the girls what happened. They don't sleep well and every loud noise scares the kids. Elinor is going to a psychologist tomorrow to help her to deal with the girls.

Last night's news showed a report of a 20 year old soldier who was seriously injured in last week's clash with Hizbollah. He lost both of his legs. He said that if what he did in Lebanon will make it just a little bit safer for the citizens of northern Israel, then it was worth losing his legs for. The country is almost unaminous in wanting this war to continue until the citizens of northern Israel can safely return to their homes. Even the people living in bomb shelters in unspeakable conditions are patiently waiting for the army to get the job done.

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